Nepal is an ideal country for international volunteers. The country’s unique strategic location and a blend of so many things in a tiny nation makes it a perfect place for a voluntary experience. Nepal is also ideal for researchers who want to study cultures, anthropology, geography, climate change, a developing economy, peace and conflict and want to complete an ethnographic field trip. Historically, mountaineers and tourists have flocked the country, but recently a significant number of volunteers and researchers also travel to the tiny Himalayan nation.
Though many visitors normally have a smooth travel experience in Nepal, there are things to be aware of. So this post brings you some dos and don’ts during your volunteer or research experience in Nepal.
Tip One: Choose your niche: You want to volunteer in Nepal and that’s a great thing. Nepal needs and welcomes international volunteers who selflessly contribute to the country’s development. However, you need to choose your niche and organization carefully. You need to carefully think what are your expertise and how can you contribute efficiently. If you are a nurse, you would be best candidate to volunteer in a hospital or a community health centre, and maybe not a great person to teach the English language or photography. Many international volunteers in Nepal volunteer in schools, buddhist monasteries, orphanages and hospitals.
Tip Two: Select your host carefully. It’s certainly cheeper and a very rewarding experience to spend your time in Nepal with a Nepali family as a paying guest. However, you should choose your host carefully. If you do not already have a strong reference from a friend or a relative, do a bit of research. Go visit them first before you make a deal or a payment.
Tip Three: Go out of Kathmandu. Kathmandu is not entire Nepal, it’s just the capital city. Many Nepalis associate Nepal with rural villages and mountains and Kathmandu is considered a crowded, chaotic hub. Go visit some Nepali villages and mountains, go beyond Pokhara and Chitwan and you’ll see real Nepal. Volunteering in villages is strongly recommended.You’ll see real Nepal, you’ll make a difference, you will avoid the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, you’ll save money and will not catch any respiratory diseases r diarrhea.
Tip Four: Trust Nepalis, but not blindly. Nepalis are internationally known for their honesty and modesty, but that’s not always the case in practice. Some people these days wrongly believe that foreigners have a lot of money and their mere $1 is approximately NRS 100 in Nepal, so getting a few dollars from them is no any sin. Well, that probably won’t be sin, but you might spend your cash quickly. So be careful before you jump trusting everyone. In villages people are still humble and honest and cities have a different story.
Tip Four: Visit places in Kathmandu. Though Kathmandu is not entire Nepal, it hosts some of the best sites to visit in Nepal. Boudhha Nath, Pashupatinath, Swoyembhu Nath (the monkey temple), the Durbar square and several other museums are worth visiting.
Tip Five: DO NOT Pay to volunteer: If you are an intern and they are assisting/guiding you a lot, then it’s a bit different. However, if you are contributing with your professional skills and if they still expect a financial contribution from you, that’s unfair. Don’t do that. You have to get the chance to volunteer for free. Rather go to a village school or a community health centre and you won’t need to pay anything and you’ll have a better experience than in cities.
Tip Six: DO NOT Panic a lot. If you come from a developed country, things might look a bit strange, chaotic and unorganized in Nepal. This is a poor country which has gone through a lot of political upheavals and recently a bloody civil war. Still do not panic a lot. More than 30 million people have been living here peacefully, so you’ll be fine for a few weeks or a few months.
Tip Seven: DO NOT Generalize or stereotype: When I was living abroad, many people used to ask me whether we have coca cola or red wine or even cars in Nepal. One of my friends at my university one day said she liked my country so much, but since it’s full of snakes and she is really afraid of snakes, she would never have the courage to travel to Nepal. Well, there are snakes everywhere, except in Ireland, and maybe I have seen 5 snakes in my 20 years in Nepal. Even those five appeared to be very shy and peaceful ones; didn’t even try to attack or bite me, but just went their way when I was in front of them. So if you are the one living in stereotypes, you may want to change that habit a bit. Be open, careful, mindful, but not judgmental and overtly skeptic.